Visually impaired since birth, Murray Hill resident plays piano from the heart

In 1947, Jan Atchley Bevan was the smallest baby (at 1 lb. 8 oz.) ever born at St. Luke’s Hospital. Although she is visually impaired as a result of her premature birth, Bevan has never allowed her blindness to cloud her vision.

Bevan’s family moved to Murray Hill when she was five years old, and for the past 42 years she’s lived in the house next door to the one she grew up in.

Although unable to read music due to her vision impairment, Bevan has played the piano and composed music since she was 13. “My music teacher suggested to my mother that I could play ‘honky tonk’ piano when I grew up,” said Bevan. “My mother was not amused.”

After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in 1965, Bevan earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and married her college sweetheart, Albert “Corky” Bevan, a teacher at Ruth N. Upson Elementary School.

Until their son, Patrick, was born in 1975, Bevan worked as a psychiatric social worker at Northeast Florida State Hospital. She and her husband were both pursuing their master’s degrees through an extension program at Loyola University at the time of Corky’s death at age 44 after falling from a ladder on June 22, 1989 while painting their 1936 Murray Hill home.

Left with a teenage son to raise on her own, Bevan went on to earn her Master’s in pastoral studies and theology from Loyola University-New Orleans, and was the first social services director of Emergency Pregnancy Services at St. Vincent’s Healthcare.

As Author-in-Residence at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens for eight years, Bevan was a museum educator who worked with school children, acting as a role model to encourage them to follow their dreams regardless of obstacles.

She is also an accomplished poet, and has published three children’s books, including one named for her late husband, “Corky, the Bathtub Who Couldn’t Swallow.”

Always involved in the arts, either directly or peripherally while involved with other careers, Bevan created her first CD, Heartstrings, in 2008, a montage of her poetry recited by British Canadian Penny Mitton, to classical chamber music performed by Sierra Ensemble of Berkeley, California.

Now 70, Bevan recently retired from her position as a medical/mental health case manager at the I. M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless to pursue her career in art full-time.

While at Sulzbacher, Bevan worked closely with the late Dr. Richard Christensen, long-time psychiatrist at the Center, who tragically died Nov. 26, 2015, while on a home-building project for Habitat for Humanity International in Lusaka, Zambia. 

“Dr. Christensen was a man who spent his life helping others,” said Bevan. “His death was so untimely and unexpected. It was just a shock to me and everyone who loved him. God gave me the melody for a musical tribute to the good doctor. I’ve named it ‘Memories’ and it is the first selection on my new CD, ‘Variations on Joy.’”

This collection of original piano compositions played by the composer is available at the Cummer Museum Gift Shop, with all proceeds going to the Museum.

Twice a past president of the National League of American Pen Women, a prestigious and historic organization of professional women in the arts, Bevan continues to strive for and achieve excellence despite life’s challenges.

Mother, grandmother, musician, counselor and composer, Bevan expresses her indomitable spirit in the music she composes. “In these times of trouble around the globe, it is so important that we cherish the beauty that surrounds us,” said Bevan. “My music is universal…it’s a message of love and joy from my heart to yours.”

By Susan D. Brandenburg
Resident Community News

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